What’s Not To Like About Panama: #11

15 Things Not To Like About Panama

If you are looking for paradise you probably won’t find it.

Thanks to the screw up by our first parents, Adam & Eve, you’re not going to find perfection or paradise this side of heaven. Accept it. Nothing is perfect. No one is perfect. But, as far as we’re concerned, life in Panama is damn close, at least for us.

Folks decided to move to Panama for a lot of reasons. Escape. Adventure. Discovery. Whatever! And for many folks it is an excellent choice, as it has been for us. So there is a whole lot to like . . . make that LOVE! . . . about living in Panama. But, given as nothing is perfect, sometimes folks ask, “Richard, what’s not to like about living in Panama?”

So here is my list of the top 15 things not to like about living in Panama.

11. No Home Depot

Don’t laugh: it’s one of the things I miss the most. When I go to visit my kids in the States I always get them to take me to Home Depot and they keep telling me I’m embarrassing them by fondling the power tools in public. When we came here 8 years ago it was hopeless. Now, for whatever they’re worth, we have Do It Center and Novey in David. Locally we have the two Chinese hardware stores, Ivan’s and El Dorado, both of which are almost like old hardware stores and have almost everything. Unfortunately it’s all made in China. At least at Home Depot there was the possibility of finding something not made in China and therefore providing a reasonable expectation that it would actually work.

I know Home Depot has deteriorated. Staff has been cut. What you’re looking for probably is in some other bin somewhere and you may not find it even although it’s there. I’m told that the days when I’d go in and buy whatever I thought I might need, and then return what I didn’t need only to have my money cheerfully refunded without a receipt, are long gone. But even still, I’m told that if something doesn’t work you can bring it back: it’s no skin off Home Depot’s back, in fact they make money on returns. And if enough folks took back Chinese crap that didn’t work, they’d find a new supplier.

Maybe worse yet, no Costco, Sam’s Club or Wal-Mar!

When Dan Quayle was running for Vice President and in the debates was challenged about his lack of experience, he claimed that he’d served in the Senate and had as much experience as Kennedy had. Lyod Bentson, the Democratic candidate for Vice President responded, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” And that “You’re no Jack Kennedy” has become a political putdown for folks who think too highly of themselves.

Business in Panama is regulated and controlled and it’s unlikely, especially when the current President Ricardo Martinelli owns the country’s largest chain of food stores, that Costco or Wal-Mart will make an appearance any time soon.

We do have something called Price Smart run by the same family that used to run Price Club in California before it merged with Costco. There is a look and feel about Price Smart and the layout that is definitely familiar. But don’t be mistaken. If I can paraphrase, “Price Smart, I belonged to Price Club. I liked Price Club. You are no Price Club, or Sam’s Club!”

Let me count the ways:

  • A hot dog and soda costs $2.50, not $1.50.
  • Buying in bulk is not cheaper: believe it or not, the idea here is that you often pay more for the convenience of buying a larger size – incredible, but true!
  • The employees lack the enthusiasm and ownership that they’ve always demonstrated, at least to me, in club stores.
  • If something sells it is frequently discontinued. Why? Now, I know this will be tricky but try to follow. If it is a popular item people remove it from the shelves and buy it making it difficult to keep the shelves neatly organized and full, therefore it has no place in the store. [If you mind is spinning don’t even think about moving to Panama!]
  • Customer service – say what? If a popular item, say dog food, is sold out, you’ll have to chase down someone to find someone who will get a forklift and bring another pallet of dog food down for the masses.

So Price Smart is not the old Price Club or Costco, but we use it faithfully because it comes closest to what we are used to. Hopefully with the new Free Trade Agreement with the US we will see more of the familiar Kirland brand products on the shelves. Price Smart doesn’t have it all down yet, but it is getting there and encouragingly there are more and more Panamanians who are shopping Price Smart in David.

List to be continued . . . stay tuned!

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